It is a very common thing to hear that the reason why people don’t read non-fiction is because non-fiction is boring. I used to believe the same thing as well, until I realized how hypocritical I was being. I have always firmly believed that no one dislikes reading, it’s just that they haven’t found the right book for them, or that the only encounters they’ve had with reading have been by force and that has hindered the relationship.
I realized that the same thing was happening to me with non-fiction. It’s not that I didn’t like it or that the whole genre is cursed with boredom, but that I just hadn’t found the right book for me, and that the ones I had read was a result of obligation. So, because I don’t like dismissing entire genres because of some preconceived notions, I gave non-fiction another try. In fact, I made it a goal to myself to read more non-fiction more this year. And truth to be told, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it.
As I mentioned before, it all comes down to finding your own niche, so here are some non-fiction reads I’ve loved recently in diverse areas of non-fiction that I insist you read (or at least give them a chance) if you’re also wanting to step into the wide world of non-fiction.
I’ll be gone in the dark by Michelle Mcnamara
This one is for all of my true crime fans. There’s nothing I enjoy more (except for maybe, definitely, reading) than sitting down and watching hours worth of true crime documentaries or YouTube videos, or sitting in my room in complete darkness while totally engrossed on an episode of the Criminal podcast. If that is also you, you have to check this book out. This book tells the story of The Golden State Killer, one of the most prolific and active serial killers in California who, for some reason, didn’t get as much “fame” as other notorious serial killers as the Zodiac or The Night Stalker. But rather than focusing on the killer itself, the book focuses on telling the story of his victims, as Michelle McNamara also talks about her own life and her journey trying to find the man behind the monster. Sadly, Michelle died before she could finish her book (and her search for the killer) but the book was completed by the people she was working with during her investigation, her editor, and her husband Patton Oswalt.
World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
This book is perfect if you love nature or if you’re just looking for something short that you can take little by little. This books took me by surprise when I read it. I was expecting to find some fun or cool facts about different types of plants and animals, and while I did find that, I also found a very beautiful and poetic exploration of race, gender, and just how beautiful the world is when you really look at it. Not to mention the gorgeous illustrations that you can find all throughout the book. If any of those things sound appealing to you, definitely check this book out.
Hidden Valley Road By RObert Kolker
This is definitely the most “academic” or heavy book of the bunch, but even then, it is highly readable and digestible. This book follows the Galvin family, a seemingly picture-perfect family of the baby boom era. But behind close doors, the Galvin family is falling apart, and it’s because 6 out of 10 of the family children were diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book not only goes into how the each individual and the family as a whole was affected by the illness, but also goes into the state of the mental health institution of the time (which was not great), and how the family helped define much of what we understand of schizophrenia today. If you have any interest in psychology, or if you really like intense stories about family, or even if you really enjoy some good journalism, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Every table has a pièce de résistance, and for this metaphorical dinner table of a book list, this is it. Really, if I can convince you to pick any of these books up, let it be this one. In this incredibly intense and hard-hitting memoir, Carmen Maria Machado delves into her toxic and abusive relationship with her ex-girlfriend. She does so in the Maria Machado way, which is by creating the metaphor or “the Dream House” and using different literary devices to tell the story. This book feels like reading a memoir while also simultaneously reading a gothic horror novel. It’s great in the most disturbing of ways. In this memoir, Carmen Maria Machado also explores a lot of LGBTQ+ topics while also talking about why domestic abuse is not often talked about within queer relationships. It’s a very illuminating read but also one I suggest to proceed with caution, as if you are sensitive to topics of domestic abuse this could be triggering.
The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson
This is a book that combines a lot of different sub-genres within non-fiction. It’s a bit memoir, a bit of travel writing, a bit of biography, and a bit of history, and yes, some true crime. This book tells the story of twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist, a man who stole hundreds of birds skins from the British Museum of Natural History, and Kirk Wallace Johnson, who became obsessed with this heist and launched himself into a crazy world-wide investigation. And apart from that, this book also explores the human obsession with natural beauty and wanting to harvest it. If you are an avid bird-watched or if you’ve ever wondered about birds or how human pull off heists, be sure to give this book a try.